Letter to the Honorable Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense
Obama Calls on Pentagon to Assist Service Members Traveling to Iraq and Afghanistan
U.S. Senator Barack Obama today sent the following letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, calling on him to immediately assist service members with expenses incurred when traveling to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to recent news reports, some American soldiers traveling to these war zones on commercial airlines were charged excess baggage fees to check their military equipment. It is unclear whether service members will be reimbursed for these fees.
In the letter, Senator Obama calls on the Pentagon to immediately make arrangements to reimburse any additional baggage fees; and establish a reimbursement process with the airlines so these charges can be directed to the Pentagon in order to alleviate any burden on our troops.
The text of the letter is below:
Dear Secretary Gates:
I am writing to ask immediate action to assist our nation's service members as they travel to and from theater.
Recent reports, such as those published in the July 30, 2008 edition of the El Paso Times, indicate that some American soldiers checking in their military equipment are being charged excess baggage fees by the airlines. According to these news reports, it is unclear whether such fees currently are reimbursable.
Given the uncertainty of this situation, I ask that the Pentagon make arrangements so that any additional baggage fees are reimbursed. If possible, any reimbursement request should be submitted by the airlines directly to the Pentagon in order to alleviate the burden on our troops in seeking repayment. Alternatively, if these increased fees will now routinely be levied against our military both going to and returning from theater and the Department cannot establish a working relationship with the airlines, then these fees should be considered and included in the travel allowance provided to our military.
I know you appreciate the hard work and dedication demonstrated by our brave service members. The soldiers have enough on their minds; they should not have to worry about filling out forms and worrying about reimbursement for the costs of carrying their equipment. I ask that you work to eliminate this additional burden on these brave men and women. I look forward to your swift response.
United States Senator